By Schemel Patrick
On Saturday, July 12, 2014 the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) held a mini-consultation with over a dozen youth participants to discuss issues affecting LGBT youth face; to determine what some of the possible responses, at the community level, to those issues could be and to discuss the Post 2015 Development Agenda and how it affects us as young people.
Some of the main issues raised were access to health care – being denied access to HIV testing, age- appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services; discrimination at health facilities and educational institutions based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity – some lecturers at tertiary institutions were noted as being prejudiced to students; and the issue of homophobic bullying in schools, which often leads to LGBT youth discontinuing their education, came up for discussion.
Mentioned too in the conversation was the large group of LGBT youth who are absent from these discussions because of intergenerational and transactional relationships, which are somewhat very prevalent in our society. Instances were mentioned where young men were in relationships with much older men because those men financed their education. Conversely, some young women are engaged into relations with older women because they need their financial support to provide for their basic needs.
Workplace discrimination was also highlighted as one of the chief issues affecting LGBT youth, based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Discrimination occurred among employees, as well as employers. LGBT youth are either denied employment or made to feel very uncomfortable at their jobs.
LGBT youth experience problems from family as well. Often children run away from home and wind up involved in sex work because they need to procure basic necessities; families regularly disown children based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity; children are often abused or experience severe violence as a result of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Parents themselves are faced with a lot of cultural and societal pressures which hinder the way they treat their children who might identity as LGBT themselves.
It is interesting to note what the consensus around the room was that issues affecting young women and girls are severely under- discussed, thus leading to isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts. The ‘LB’ women in the LGBT Guyanese community are often under-represented in discussions at the community level like these.
The other important goal of the consultation was to ascertain what responses can be designed to mitigate some of the issues LGBT youth face. One of the suggestions from the room was to provide assistance for LGBT youth in the form of a safe house – and, if possible, employment opportunities.
The consultation ended with a brief overview of the Post 2015 Development Agenda, its importance, and why youth engagement is critical to the process.